In 1971 a French yachting enthusiast commissioned naval architect Frederick Parker to design a large ocean going yacht to meet the exacting Lloyds 100A1 classification.
The hull was bult in the Hamble by Joyce Brothers, a small shipyard specialising in 60 -70 foot yachts and motor cruisers. Once completed she was shipped to St Malo in France for the interior to be fitted out in Burma teak panelling, walnut doors and teak and holly sole boards.
Commissioned in 1972 and named Senouire she was sailed to the Mediterranean where she was used for private cruising and charter, before changing hands and under the pretext of searching for “archeological salvage” was involved in a dubious business between the Bahamas and Miami resulting in her being impounded by the US Coastguard and sold under tender in Fort Lauderdale.
I came across her in 1997 while looking for a suitable vessel on which to provide mileage experience for prospective yachtmaster candidates.
Following her purchase Senouire underwent a complete refit in Cork Dockyard under the scrutiny of the Department of Transport’s surveyor and advised by Ron Holland, and in the spring of 1998 she was launched bearing her new name of Spirit of Oysterhaven and carrying the full Passenger Licence.
During that summer Spirit of Oysterhaven featured in Derek Davis’ TV series “Out of the Blue” and the following year sailed to the Tall Ships event in Dublin. In 2002 she sailed across the Atlantic, returning from Antigua to Kinsale and inspiring Theo Dorgan’s lyrical account of the voyage in his book “Sailing Home”.
After a facelift and refit in Spain Spirit set off once more across the Atlantic, this time via the Cape Verde islands, landing in Tobago, and sailing up along the island chain as far as Antigua, where she once again sailed in Antigua Classic Regatta.
Following a more extensive refit in Trinidad Spirit sailed back to Ireland via the Azores in the spring of 2010 and began the process of upgrading her systems to meet the new Passenger Boat Comsail regulations.
In 2012, with her new licence, she set off for the Tall Ships in Dublin with a crew of young people, some able bodied and some with disabilities, as part of a Club initiative.
In 2013 she sailed to Barcelona, Toulon and La Spezia participating in the Mediterranean Tall Ships Regatta.
Between 2013 and 2017, under the auspices of Sail Training Ireland, Spirit operated as Ireland's de facto National Sail Training vessel attending Maritime Festivals and developing sail training programmes around the island of Ireland.
In recognition of that work Spirit of Oysterhaven was awarded Best Vessel Operator in the small vessel category by Sail Training International. An award we shared with our partner Safehaven Voyages.
In 2017 we undertook a final 'lap of honour' around the Atlantic and participated in Antigua Classic Regatta for our third time. Overwintering in Lanzarate Spirit sailed to the Azores in March 2018 before hauling out for a final refit and respray in Xufre, Ria Do Arousa, Galicia.
For the summer months Spirit is sailing the Rias of Galicia and I should like to invite prospective buyers to join us on board and experience the extraordinary sailing qualities of this unique vessel.
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Oliver Hart 20.06.19